Today (June 25, 2015), the House passed HR 1295 which includes extension of the African Growth and Opportunity Act and other trade preference programs, as well as the renewal of Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) and improved AD/CVD laws that will benefit the steel industry. The measure passed by a vote of 286-138.
Today’s vote follows the Senate approval on Wednesday of the legislation along with passage of the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA). TPA passed the Senate by 60 to 38 and TAA passed by voice vote after it was agreed to cut off further debate.
TAA was attached to a bill that that focuses on trade in Africa, a non-controversial measure that easily passed in the House previously. TAA extends benefits to workers who have lost jobs because of foreign trade. It will extend benefits through 2022, provides $2.7 billion in worker retraining and education funds, and gives service industry workers access to the program that originally was designed for the manufacturing industry.
The attached trade remedy measures, which are also included in the customs bill that passed the House and Senate, include the Level the Playing Field Act, which clarifies injury standards, tariff calculation and strengthens DOC authority in antidumping and countervailing investigations.
Thomas J. Gibson, president and CEO of AISI, today said, “We commend the House for passing legislation today that will improve the effectiveness of our antidumping and countervailing duty laws to combat unfairly traded imports. These modifications to the trade laws come at a critical time for the steel industry, as we are currently faced with a surge in steel imports that are causing injury to the domestic industry, including significant reductions in domestic steel production and job losses. We look forward to President Obama quickly signing this bill into law.”
Mario Longhi, President and CEO of US Steel issued the following statement on passage of TPA and TAA:
“I applaud Congress for passing groundbreaking trade legislation, giving President Obama the authority to negotiate strong trade agreements and open new markets for American goods and services while protecting American manufacturing and American workers. The reauthorization of TAA, which supports displaced workers affected by unfair trade, also provides new language to ensure our trade laws confront unfair trade practices in the U.S. market. These legislative developments represent a victory for our efforts to level the playing field with countries who have taken advantage of our nation’s trade laws for far too long.
“The TAA legislation clarifies the injury standard in dumping and countervailing duties cases – the interpretation and enforcement of which have been weakened and become a less-effective tool to counter 21st century trade practices mastered by foreign companies and governments. By the time ‘injury’ has occurred and can be demonstrated, our markets have already been flooded with unfairly traded goods leading to suppressed prices, plant closures and layoffs. This legislation allows American manufacturers to seek adequate and timely relief under U.S. trade laws.
“We have fought, and will continue to fight, for fair trade. However, our fight to prevent unfairly traded products from flooding our shores does not end here. We remain resolute and will use all tools available, including this improved injury definition, to address illegal dumping and subsidized imports that injure the health of our company and employees.”
TPA Goes to President
Passage of TPA sends it to the White House for presidential signature. It is a welcome development for President Obama who seeks to complete the Trans Pacific Partnership.
Not everyone was please with the TPA vote, however. According to the USW and critics of the fast track bill and Trans-Pacific Partnership, Democrats were lured into supporting TPA by attaching trade remedy measures sought by the steel industry to the Trade Assistance Act. Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown was among the Democrats who did not vote for TPA.
“It’s disappointing that my colleagues voted to fast track the largest trade deal ever [TPP] without demanding that our trading partners follow the same rules that we do,” said Brown in a statement following the vote. “I’m encouraged that we acted to extend TAA and pass the Leveling the Playing Field Act to address anticompetitive practices like dumping. But as TPP is negotiated, we must do more to prevent a race to the bottom that gives handouts to corporations while selling out American workers.”
Conferences have also begun on the customs bills that were passed in the House and Senate. Once reconciliation is made on the two versions, the bill is expected to be have final passage sometime in July.
“Quick action to reconcile the House and Senate versions of the customs bill is also critical for the steel industry. We urge the conferees to adopt the Senate ENFORCE bill, which will gives companies and workers a means to petition Customs and Border Protection to take action in a timely manner to combat the evasion of antidumping and countervailing duty orders,” said Gibson.
In response to the recent trade case and the new language in the bills discussed above, Steel Market Update has expanded our government & trade portion of our 5th Steel Summit Conference program. We have added a new speaker/panelist: Richard Chriss, Executive Director of the American Institute for International Steel (AIIS) who, along with Kevin Dempsey, Executive Vice President & General Counsel for the American Iron & Steel Institute (AISI) and attorney Lewis Leibowitz will discuss antidumping and countervailing duties, changes in the language that impacts trade and defining “injury” and other issues before the government which could impact the steel industry in 2016 and beyond.
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